Archives For Place


An excellent book that arrived in bookstores last week…

Telling Our Way to the Sea: A Voyage of Discovery in the Sea of Cortez
Aaron Hirsh

Hardback: FSG, 2013.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle ]

“Hirsh delivers an important work about the power of place and the power of stories—scientific, historical, and personal—to shape our understanding of our world.”
– Publishers Weekly [ Read the full, starred review ]

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Closer to Home.

A Feature Review of

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life
Rod Dreher

Hardback: Grand Central, 2013.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Ellen Painter Dollar.

In November 1995, my then-boyfriend’s, now-husband’s brother died suddenly. A few weeks later, I preached a sermon at my little coffee-house church about how Jimmy’s death made me impatient with all of the outward-focused ministries for which my church (part of the venerable Washington, DC-based Church of the Saviour) was known. People affiliated with my church were doing wonderful things for DC’s poorest citizens—day care centers and GED prep and long-term supportive housing for those with HIV/AIDS. Good stuff.


But, I admitted, loving Daniel as he mourned his brother drew my focus a bit closer to home. I realized that we Christians are called not simply to do big things for Jesus “out there” in the world, but also to offer sacrificial love—Christ-like love—in our homes and families and friendships, where the needs can be just as big and desperate as those on our city streets or in undeveloped overseas locales.

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Paul Sparks, Chris SmithOn Tuesday night September 18, we here at Englewood Christian Church on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis were pleased to host a conversation about churches and neighborhoods facilitated by ERB editor Chris Smith and Paul Sparks of the Parish Collective.

This “Reimagining the Parish” conversation drew a diverse crowd of participants from around central Indiana (A huge thanks to all who attended!)

An overview of the conversation:

1) Chris sketches the Slow Church vision and why Englewood is excited about the work of the Parish Collective

2) Paul overviews the work that he is involved in with the Parish Collective

3) A wide-ranging Q/A conversation on churches, neighborhoods and place.

Please download, listen and freely share this recording as you see fit.
The evening was also video recorded and clips from that video will be available in the near future.




Doug Worgul: Thin, Blue SmokeAn excerpt from the best novel I’ve read this year,
which releases this week (though, through some confusion on my part about its release date, it wasn’t on our list of new releases to watch for this week… though it SHOULD have been!)

Thin, Blue Smoke: A Novel.

Doug Worgul

Paperback: Burnside Books, 2012.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

The blurb I wrote for this novel:
Doug Worgul’s Thin Blue Smoke is a poignant story that unfolds in and around a tiny barbecue joint on the backstreets of Kansas City. With bold and twisted characters like those of Flannery O’Connor or Frederick Buechner, Worgul weaves a rich and redemptive story that captures the spirit of its gritty, urban setting as well as any American novel that is deeply rooted in a place. In our world of increasing isolation and infidelity, Thin Blue Smoke stirs our imaginations with the hope of what is possible through deep and tenacious friendships.

The cover on the excerpt below is from the UK edition… The correct cover is on the left…

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Francis Kline - Lovers of the PlaceThe Staircase to Richer, Fuller Living

A Feature Review of

Lovers of the Place: Monasticism Loose in the Church

Francis Kline

Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2012
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by David Nash

When I received Lovers of Place, I opened the book with eager anticipation.  I was intrigued with the subtitle “Monasticism Loose in the Church” and looked forward to reading the book. Then I was disappointed to find out that the book was first published in 1997, and was republished in 2012 without revision.  “Why?” I wondered.  As I read through the book I found that my hopes were not high enough!  Indeed, Lovers of the Place, though only a few years in print, holds the promise of becoming a spiritual classic.

The opening chapter presents an extended allegory of the life of the church, an allegory that rings true with my experience as a parish pastor, and sets the agenda for the rest of the book.  The second chapter opens up the allegory as the author explains the transition from “personal pre-occupation to wonderment at the larger world of the church paradoxically inside the building.” (18)

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Sara Teasdale

Sara Teasdale - PlacesPlaces I love come back to me like music,
Hush me and heal me when I am very tired;
I see the oak woods at Saxton’s flaming
In a flare of crimson by the frost newly fired;
And I am thirsty for the spring in the valley
As for a kiss ungiven and long desired.

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Robert Chambers

Iste terraram mini preter omntj Angulus ridet –Horace

Written during a visit at the Nook, near Airth, Stirlingshire

One thing seems agreed on in speech and in book,
That, if comfort exists, ‘twill be found in a nook ;
All seems dreary and cold in an open area,
But a corner – how charming the very idea!
Hence, when, weary with toiling, we think of retreat ,
A nook is the spot that we ask for our seat – Continue Reading…


The Humane Vision of Wendell BerryCreating a Humane Vision for Our Places.

A Review of

The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry

Mark T. Mitchell and Nathan Schleuter, eds.

Hardback: ISI Books, 2011.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Scot F. Martin

What a wild ride it has been these past couple of years.  First, Wendell Berry was appointed as special counsel to Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and convinced him that soil conservation should be the number one U.S. agricultural goal.  Then following the advice contained in a white paper authored by Mr. Berry the State and Defense Departments have begun shuttering numerous U.S. military bases overseas and we are moving from a bellicose foreign policy to one more in line with George Washington’s non-interventionist stance toward most world events.  Lastly, nearly every state capital has created infrastructure to assist interdependence between urban and rural citizens.  Not only have farmer’s markets displaced many large regional and national grocery store chains, but there are multiple sustainable economies developing in rural areas and small towns across America.  This is due, in no small part to the stumping of Wendell Berry.  We still have problems in 2012, but thanks to this veritable Berry-palooza we are nurturing healthier communities along with cleaner ecosystems.

…And then I woke up.

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Close At Hand

A Review of
Three New Books
Of Photographs
By Robert Adams.

Review by Brent Aldrich.

Robert Adams.
Paperback – Reprint Edition: Yale UP, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Sea Stories.
Robert Adams.
Paperback: Yale UP, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

This Day.
Robert Adams.
Paperback: Yale UP, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

A trio of books of Robert Adams’s photographs brings together images spanning several decades of black and white impressions from the American West in Prairie, Sea Stories, and This Day. It might seem a huge subject and length of time, but Adams’s skill as a photographer is in bringing landscapes to a particularizing level on which their contours can be understood, their individual features worth caring for. It is in many ways the great work of place-making, of finding a home within distinct subtleties of weather and geography and history. These geographies ought to change the sensibilities and sympathies of our cultures located within them – over and against the mono-culture of, say, Interstate Highway Architecture – even as our cultures, in our images, our language, our neighborhoods, change the shape or imagine those same geographies.

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“How We Might Regain Worthwhile,
Cherished Places and Neighborhoods

A review of
Three new books related to
Interstate Transportation
And the Destruction of Places.

Review by Brent Aldrich.

Photo - Brent Aldrich - Click to Enlarge

The Big Roads:
The Untold Story
of the Engineers, Visionaries…

by Earl Swift
HMHarcourt, 2011
Buy now:
[ Amazon ]
[ Kindle ]
The Transcontinentals and the Making
of Modern America
by Richard White.
Norton, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon ]
[ Kindle ]
Railroad Stations:
The Buildings That Linked the Nation

David Naylor
Norton, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon ]

THE BIG ROADS - SwiftThe first problem is by now a familiar one: the particularly American capacity for self-destruction of our cherished human and common realms in favor of the scale and privatization of the automobile, and its ensuing snare of roads, speed, and placeless suburbanized development.

The second problem – and I take this one personally – is that our 47,000 mile Interstate Highway System, the crowning legacy of the Auto Age, may be traced back to an Indianapolis cyclist.


So especially with that second point in mind, and a few new books about American transportation history, a few reflections seem to be in order. To begin with, Earl Swift’s The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways begins with Carl Fisher, builder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, racing, repairing, selling… bicycles: riding one on a tightrope between downtown buildings, building another that was two stories tall, shoving another off of a highrise as a promotional gimmick – whoever dragged the wreckage to his shop received a free new bike. (I love this pre-1900 bike propaganda, and could make a case that it’s this lack of delightful bike culture in Indianapolis now that most discourages more bicyclists).

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